San Benito, Texas – The 13th Annual Happy Birthday TexasFest, which draws thousands of visitors, will take place in San Benito this weekend, even though many people are concerned about coronavirus.

Federico Garza, president of the nonprofit that runs the two-day re-enactment festival, said the fact that the event is held totally outside will help ensure health safety. “We feel very confident in what we are doing. We are taking all the necessary precautions.”

Federico Garza

There have been no reported cases of coronavirus in the Rio Grande Valley thus far.

Happy Birthday TexasFest includes re-enactments of the battles of Gonzales, the Alamo, and San Jacinto.

“We’re expecting at least 10,000 people and hoping for 20,000,” Garza said, noting that the Rio Grande Valley Livestock Show & Rodeo is also going ahead this week. “And that event draws 100,000 people,” Garza said.

The name of the nonprofit is Texas Heritage Independence Celebration Association, Inc. In addition to a re-enactment of three battles crucial to Texas independence, the festival will have an appreciation reception for Winter Texans, a Texas History Symposium, arts and crafts and food vendors, Folklorico, Aztec, Matachines and native Indian dancing, dancing horses, a kiddies area, and music provided by country, tenant and conjunto bands.

Garza said he started the festival to provide a more well-rounded version of Texas history.

“When I studied history about the Battle of the Alamo and how the Mexicans fought the Anglos, throughout the course of my entire education, that went from elementary, to junior high, to high school, to college, I never knew that a Mexican had fought for Texas independence. I was astonished to find out that a guy named Juan Seguin had fought for Texas independence. I did not believe and I went and did my own personal research and found out that, yes, there were many Tejanos who had fought for Texas independence but never mentioned in our history books.”

The mission of the festival, Garza said, is to help produce a more inclusive history of Texas, one that is “able to recognize the contribution Tejanos have made for Texas history.”

The Happy Birthday TexasFest is held Friday, March 13, and Saturday, March 14, at the San Benito Fair Grounds. For more information go to

Cortez’s perspective

Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez

San Benito is in Cameron County. In neighboring Hidalgo County, County Judge Richard Cortez is is advising all residents to avoid public gatherings in which more than 1,000 people are expected.

Cortez said his advisory came as a result of a Thursday afternoon conference call between Governor Greg Abbott, Texas health officials and county officials from across the state. During the call state officials offered county officials three new guidelines related to mass gatherings:

  • Organizers expecting more than 1,000 people should reconsider holding the event.
  • The public and organizers should also consider indoor/outdoor crowd density.
  • Event organizers should consider the essential nature of the gathering, including whether it is necessary or being held for leisure or entertainment.

“I take seriously any action that might have an economic impact on Hidalgo County,” Judge Cortez said. “But even more serious is the health and well-being of Hidalgo County residents. Therefore, I am urging residents to follow the advice of state health experts and reconsider attending any mass gatherings that involve large crowds.”

Although he did not mention it, Cortez could have been thinking of the Rio Grande Valley Livestock Show & Rodeo, which takes place this weekend in Mercedes. The show traditionally draws tens of thousands of visitors.